CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – UK DEFENCE EXPENDITURE – 13 March 2017

[Fabian Hamilton: Last month, the International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded that the Government have in fact missed the 2% NATO defence spending target, and that they would have missed it by even more had they not included budgetary headings, such as pensions, which do not contribute to our defence capabilities and were not included when Labour was in government. Is it not time that we went back to the criteria used for defence spending when the Labour party was in power so that we may give our armed forces the resources they need?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Harriett Baldwin): Well, honestly, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read the Defence Committee’s report, which

“commends the UK Government’s commitment to UK defence and finds that its accounting criteria fall firmly within existing NATO guidelines” –

as does NATO itself. It would be worrying if we were to follow his party leader, who wants to see cuts to defence spending, the abandonment of our NATO allies and the scrapping of the nuclear deterrent.]

Dr Julian Lewis: May I helpfully suggest to the Minister that one way she could avoid these arguments about whether we have or have not scraped over the 2% line is to recognise that the last time we faced threats like those we face today was the 1980s, when we used to spend between 4.5% and 5% of GDP on defence? Let us settle for 3% so that we can avoid this sort of argument.

[Harriett Baldwin: I appreciate my right hon. Friend’s campaign. We are proud of the fact that we are spending substantially more than the 2% target; that we have a growing defence budget for the first time in many years; and that we are on track to have a £178 billion equipment plan over the next decade.]